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Review: Argo

Warner Bros. Pictures: Ben Affleck in "Argo"Revolts, revolutions and riots will most likely be around until the end of time. If realized, these types of events have the ability to change the world, and they also have the ability to cause a large amount of destruction. These potentially catastrophic events are usually the result of an injustice or a perceived injustice being done by people in a position of authority . If you’ve seen a few of them, you’ll find that it’s not only problematic for world governments and the “powers that be” who are being accused, but like in the film Argo, it can also present dangers to the people who are caught in the middle.

The actual story of these events begins back in 1953, when a coup d’état was organized and executed by the C.I.A. to help restore Mohammad Reza Pahlavi back to his position of power as Shah in Iran. In order to put the Shah back into power, they had to remove Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister at that time. As a result of this coup that was executed successfuly, a partnership of sorts developed between the United States and Pahlavi until 1979, when the Shah’s rule came to an end during the Iranian Revolution.

This revolution eradicated and destroyed essentially every aspect of the Pahlavi dynasty that previously ruled and aspired to adopt at least some of the practices seen in the western world. The Shah of Iran, after being forcefully removed from office and replaced by the Ayatollah Khomeini, is extradited to the U.S. where he is protected and receives medical treatment during his dying days on earth. There were plenty of Iranians who were extremely upset over this arrangement and they wanted him to be brought back to Iran and receive the punish they felt he deserved.

The Americans had no designs of cooperating and that caused even more issues between the two sides that still remain to this day. One of the things that came of this ever growing friction is what came to be known as the Iran hostage crisis. This crisis began in the fall of 1979 when a group of Islamic Iranians took over the American Embassy in Tehran. 52 Americans were taken hostage at the embassy, but six American diplomats managed to slip out before the building was put on complete lockdown by its intruders.

After their escape, these six diplomats managed to find their way over to the Canadian ambassador’s home where they hide out while the C.I.A. attempts to figure out how to get out of Iran and return them home safely. After going through multiple ideas that are either unreasonable or implausible, Agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) devises an elaborate plan that might be able to get them out of the country before there location is found out. He gets the idea that he can go into Iran and rescue the diplomats if they pose as a Canadian film crew looking to shoot a movie in an exotic locale.

The plan is scoffed at by many of his fellow associates in the agency at first and is seen as a bad idea, but the big wigs in the CIA soon come to realize that this may actually be “the best bad idea” they have. Once the plan is approved and allowed to push forward, Mendez goes out to get everything organized and ready to go. This portion of Argo takes us through Mendez doing all he can to get it all together while also taking a very small glimpse into his personal life.

Knowing that the clock is ticking, Mendez doesn’t waste time diving head first into his operation. He begins by zipping to the glamorous world of Hollywood, California to scout and recruit people who know the ins and outs of the filmmaking business in order to have them assist him in devising a plan that will either save lives or bring them to a tumultuous end. He finds those two people when he meets up with two Hollywood big shots in John Chambers (John Goodman) and Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin). The two filmmaking vets know what it takes to get things rolling and allows for Mendez to receive the cover he needs.

Most of Argo is covered in this portion of the film and watching these guys do their jobs during this time is entertaining to say the least. John Goodman and Alan Arkin are spectacular supporting cast members here and are vital to the film’s overall success. That’s primarily because both bring a substantial amount of exuberance to their roles and the film as a whole. They are both perfect choices to fit what the script is asking from them and they delivered as well as everyone could have imagined.

A large part of what they do is seen through a comedic perspective that I didn’t originally anticipate. Based on the trailers and commercials, I knew there would be some comedy, but it’s actually given to the audience in spades. It’s a pleasure watching this duo whether they are together or apart in Argo and it never gets stale or tiresome. This may or may not be possible, but I would like to see these two in a film together as the two lead roles or something. That’s a movie that I would pay to see.

Being the lead actor, Ben Affleck is also an important figure in the film. The audience will see just about everything through his eyes, so it’s important that he brings enough quality to his performance to help shoulder the burden of providing enough consistent entertainment. I happen to believe that this type of character is perfect for Affleck. Similar to his performance in The Town, he’s not asked to do much as far as showing emotion or displaying a great deal of personality. He’s basically playing a normal guy from that standpoint and I think he does that well.

With the exception of when he’s with Goodman and Arkin, his character is shown in the more dramatic scenes for the most part. That includes his interactions with the escaped diplomats that he has to get prepped and ready to execute the dangerous plans that he has set up for them. A few of those diplomats and some of the other characters around them bring in some of those qualities to the film when we look at their personalities and the difficulties that they’re confronted with. For all the jokes presented in Argo, these dramatic scenes help to create a balance within the story and they also tend to heighten the intensity that you need to feel as a viewer.

I can’t really find too much to complain about in Argo. The drama, the suspense and the surprising amount of comedy pops up exactly whenever it is required, and there’s a cast that fits perfectly. It all comes together to show something that I consider a fun and carefully crafted movie that manages to stay on the upbeat and positive side of things while showing people under dire circumstances.

I’ve seen all of Ben Affleck’s films with him as the director and I have to say that he understands what he’s doing behind the camera. I don’t know if he can keep this pace up, but his movies are getting better as he gains experience and Argo falls right in line with that. It has nearly everything you could want in a movie when it comes down to substance and entertainment. This his best film to date as a director and I’m sure there’s a strong possibility that it will be up for a few awards when the time comes.

Score: 4/5

Rating: R

Director: Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck
Bryan Cranston
John Goodman
Alan Arkin
Kyle Chandler
Victor Garber
Tate Donovan
Kerry Bishé
Christopher Denham
Clea DuVall
Michael Parks

Film Length: 120 minutes

Release Date: October 12, 2012

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

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